Recently I made the mistake of flicking through The Advertiser, this article was published over the weekend, titled ‘Revealed What Makes Women Happy’.
Looking at this shitty information graph my spidey senses for sexism started tingling & my ‘this looks like bullshit’ alarms started going off.
Starting off I’m just going to address what this graph indicates.
Looking at the ‘source of happiness’ pie chart in terms of what is included is
- Friendships 84%
- Food 76%
- Kids 74%
- Husband/Partner 74%
- Role as a wife 72%
- Role as a mother 71%
- Parents 64%
- Pets 60%
- Sex 58%
- Shopping 57%
All of these options don’t seem to be ‘sources of happiness’ that doesn’t require leaving the home, the kitchen or the mall. All of which is reinforcing stereotypes and expectations about what women are interested in & what women are ‘good for’.
Just to clarify, I don’t think that being interested in any of these things is bad, but I think that women are more complicated and have ambitious that aren’t just domestic or based on relationships of nurturing a family, getting married, & being the glue that is holding together the ‘family unit’. How very hetro-normative too.
Please take note that ‘Role as a wife’ + ‘having a husband/partner’ (same thing twice) & ‘role as a a mother’ + ‘kids’ (same thing twice) was included. Which is something that I find confusing in terms or portraying data thats interesting & looks like its included to reinforce that women are think getting married & having babies is very important to them.
The fact that ‘Friendships’ is included as being the most important in terms of being a source of happiness, doesn’t make up for the majority of bullshit options and I’m assuming lack of options for women to choose.
I’m not sure if other options weren’t included, or whether The Advertiser just chose to include the results that made the results look skewed in terms of making them look like women’s only interests and ambitions are to be the perfect little home makers.
But I’m calling bullshit of making it look like that women don’t derive happiness or aren’t interested in such things as:
- Gaining leadership roles
- Personal hobbies
- Sports (watching & participating in)
- The arts
- Politics/Lobbying issues
- Creative outlets (writing/crafts/etc)
These kinds of interests aren’t even included in the pie chart of ‘What women want more time for‘ which was:
- Time for reading
- Time with their kids
- Time for chores
- Time for fitness
- Time with their partner
- Time with their friends
The data apparently came from “Today’s Woman survey of 6253 Australian women by NewsLifeMedia and parenting website kidspot.com.au“. A website that gives me the feeling that only gathered the survey from women who are interested in “trading in their careers for the role of wife, mother and friend”, which is I stress again, is an option which is fine for women to choose. But, I think is totally biased and skewed in terms of data.
It would be the same as me collecting data, by talking to women who are interested in hand sewing their baby’s clothes, with questions that only give women the option of rating ‘how much happiness they get from being a mother’.
Opposed to going out & collecting data from many different locations, to get a test sample that is more representative of society. I really have my doubts that many of these women interviewed weren’t single/students/queer/from a culturally or linguistically diverse background.
Basically I think this data comes from a really shitty source, that in my mind doesn’t have authority of ‘What Women Want’ at all.
I really that within this simple graph that The Advertiser is misrepresenting women, and is another example of the media misrepresenting women, making us seem like our only goals is finding a man, pushing out baby’s & finding the time to shop & stay trim.
What I find really alarming is that this article was written by a woman – Natasha Bita, National Social Editor.
In the article, which you can read online here she writes:
“Australian women worry more about their weight than their children’s safety or money.
But food, shopping and pets still provide more pleasure than sex.
What women want most is the ”three Fs” – family, friends and financial security.”
Which is also sending out strange mixed messages about women, we are apparently really into being mothers, but we’re more concerned in our weight and body image, to the point that we struggle with our love of food, which is more of a pleasurable experience and interest in sex. Which kind of makes us sound like we are shitty parents, for putting our worries and anxieties about our bodies first and pushes again the stereotype that women aren’t interested in sex, and sex is all about men’s pleasure.
The quote from the article above sounds like a sponsored message from Tony Abbott or Alan Jones to push that we aren’t interested in ‘Destroying the Joint’ by getting involved in anything outside the home, or just being a consumer.
According to the article the report also goes on to say
‘‘It’s hard for her to balance her work, friendships and self with all the demands at home,” the report says.
”She feels a lack of time and is often overwhelmed.”
(Perhaps this is because women are still expected to be the sole carer of children? I’m also really confused as to why there is no mention of their husband’s/partner’s input to their family, or the domestic duties I’m assuming that they are only dealing with women with partners).
The article then ropes in an ‘expert opinion’ with Professor Barbara Pocock, director of the Centre for Work + Life from University of South Australia, who said
“women who ”step back” into part-time work while their children are young often enjoy a better work-life balance.”
(I think that we should be encouraging women to be getting out into the workforce, working full time, or working on their education to sharpen up their skills & qualifications. Which needs a combination of a mixture of swapping the gender roles in terms of who is doing the majority of the work in the home & making child care more affordable for working families).
”We’re encouraging young women to become doctors and engineers and managers, and we need the workplace to respond,” she said.
”Many women working full-time are finding it really hard to hold it together.
”It stresses children and families, it can contribute to relationship strains and it’s not good for community fabric.
(Indicating that women are not capable of coping with work/life balance. I’m not sure if the point is to say that women have too many expectations to be all things to all people, in work and home, being the perfect wife/mother/worker. But ultimately seems to be putting the blame on women for making relationships strain & ‘being bad for community fabric’. Ugh.)
”Women’s biggest source of stress, however, is maintaining or achieving the ideal body weight, affecting 72 per cent of women.
”The pragmatism she displays in other areas of her life turns to irrationality and stress when it comes to her weight,” the report says.
”Not until the age of 65 does she stop worrying about it.”
(I think its interesting that the pressure to have a ‘ideal body’ is mentioned, but doesn’t really explain what the source of these stressors are coming from. Whether thats from herself, her husband, the media, society, whoever. Nor does it really mention if there is a healthy solution, or ways that women can get around this. But this also makes women sound like they are self absorbed with the (somewhat shallow but complicated) issue of their body image, over the issues of raising kids/career/money/etc, which i think is also not very helpful in terms of a positive portrayal of women).
The article then goes on to an interview with 18 year old University students about their friendships with other young women, which in my mind doesn’t really make sense, as much of the previous text is focusing on married women with babies. It seems like more of a trick to make it seem like the research gone into this article is more balanced than it actually is.
Although, I do really agree with the sentiment that women having friendships with other women is very important and influential in terms of giving us happiness. We need support systems, we need connection, we need people who can understand and empathize with our experiences. Women mentoring other women, and being allies to each other is something that is throughly underrated and underutilized in terms of female empowerment.
But I’m confused to why the friendship connection wasn’t asked of the women who are battling time commitments of their work, babies & husbands. Is it because its likely that the family unit alienates women from other women? That they no longer have time to have meaningful friendships with other women? I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I do think that interviewing the carefree uni students about their friends, is a sneaky way of trying to give this bullshit article some kind of positive spin.
Because I’m a young person, thats very engaged with social media, of course I posted a picture of the graph onto facebook/intagram/twitter & these were some of the reactions & comments it received:
“Who wants more hours in the day to do fucking chores?”
“I don’t even want to get married, where do these figures even come from?”
“They had an article about a month ago that basically said it was women’s fault that their husbands leave them/lose interest in them/have affairs because they don’t ‘take care of themselves’ after marriage and ‘let themselves go’.. I wouldn’t wipe my ass with that newspaper but yet I still read it every day because it’s Adelaide-based. We really need a non-conservative local paper.”
“Heres news for them. Women like to go to the pub, we drink beer. We also work in men dominated areas and easily out do them. We work faster, more efficiently, with less accidents and wear on machinery. And we are able to THINK more efficiently because we are not afraid to confront our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. There are advantages to being the underdog, ladies…”
“It is a useless and unrevealing chart. All it says is “women want more” and a list of categories in which they want it. The same for be true of men. And cats. And trees. “Respondants were allowed to give more than one response”: SO WHERE IS THE FUCKING “CONTROL” IN THIS EXPERIMENT THAT ACTUALLY MAKES IT M-E-A-N SOMETHING???”
“But it must be true. That is what Tony Abbott has been telling us all along! I have not read the Advertiser in decades”.
“Makes good kitty litter liners, dog poo wrap, fire starters…I thought that’s what it was sold for?! You mean people actually read it?!”
I do acknowledge that many of my friends and peers are activist-feminist types, so its not exactly a snapshot of of the wider communities’ view on the article, but i think these are voices that are important to listen to.
To try to wrap this up.
While, again, reinforcing, its fine to be interested in these things, family: having a partner & children, I’m not into shaming women for things that they choose for themselves, but I’m not so much into pressuring women to take a ‘traditional’ path. Women shouldn’t be portrayed as only having domestic ambitions. I think this is damaging to us. We are more then this outdated 50’s identity. We are more than housewives. We aspire to be more than mothers and homemakers.
This really is shitty journalism, its probably quite mild in terms of the other stories that are out there. Regardless, I am really disappointed that it was written by a woman, although I’m not sure if the content or the angle was really her fault, or moreso just doing what is expected to tow the lines of the Advertiser. Maybe I’m an idiot that doesn’t really have an idea about how the world of journalism works, or what its like to be a women trying to make it as a writer in a male dominated industry. But I can’t help but feel deeply disappointed.
I’m tired of these stories, and I’m tired of being pointed at and ridiculed because ‘I’m the one with the problem’. Getting dubbed a feminist killjoy (a title I’ll wear like a badge of honor) that apparently is taking everything a little too seriously.
FYI the problem isn’t that ‘I see sexism everywhere’ the problem is that you don’t see it. Sexism is engrained into our society to the point of normalcy, and you are fooling yourself if you think that we have achieved gender equality already because things are ‘better now than what they were in the 50’s’. There is still alot of work to be done.
We can’t achieve gender equality by promoting that women are more interested in retreating back into the home, because its apparently all too much for us out there in the big bad world. The fact that we can find power in our friendships and connections isn’t even offered to us as a potential tool or solution for dealing with the struggles that we might encounter. But moreso as ‘friendships’ being good for our lonely experience, who can laugh at our little anecdotes about the funny things our kids did today, while we chat to them on the phone while washing the dishes.
So I’m calling bullshit on this one, & I’m demanding better representation of women portrayed in the media. This isn’t good enough.